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  1. Simon Hamilton appeared at Question Time for the first time in his new role as Health Minister.
  2. Justice Minister David Ford answered questions including implementing aspects of the Stormont House Agreement in his department.
  3. Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan asked a question on Pneumococcal disease at Harland and Wolff, Belfast.
  4. An Ulster Unionist motion called for adequate support and funding for the community and voluntary sector.
  5. A DUP motion expressed concern at the impact of so-called 'legal highs'.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Laura Trueman

All times stated are UK

Good afternoon

That's all from Stormont for today. Join us from 10:30am tomorrow when the Justice Minister, David Ford, is delivering a statement on children in the justice system.

'Psychotic episodes'

Pam Cameron

The DUP's Pam Cameron sums up on her party's motion.

She says there have been "many reported cases of psychotic episodes" often long after the person has stopped using the substances.

Mrs Cameron says the speed with which these products are reaching the streets is "truly frightening".

The motion as amended by the SDLP is carried on an oral vote.

Cross-border cooperation

Joe Byrne

Winding on the SDLP amendment, Joe Byrne emphasises the need for co-ordination with the Republic.

He says that the owner of a head shop in Omagh also owned a head shop in Letterkenny, County Donegal.

When the Letterkenny shop closed "all of the sales were coming through the Omagh shop".

New measures

Simon Hamilton

Health Minister Simon Hamilton says the key message to come from the Assembly today is that "these substances are not safe".

He says that the matter comes under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which is reserved legislation, and that Northern Ireland health ministers have raised it with UK ministers on a regular basis.

Mr Hamilton says the Home Office has agreed to develop appropriate measures.


Basil McCrea

Basil McCrea of NI21 also refers to the death of Adam Owens.

He calls for greater emphasis on help and support for drug-users as well as simply banning the substances.


Gary Middleton

DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton says drug abuse "is having devastating results" in Northern Ireland's communities.

He calls for a strategic approach and praises councils that have moved against "head shops".

Mr Middleton says the drugs can have character-altering effects, sometimes resulting in users becoming suicidal.


Jo-Anne Dobson

Jo-Anne Dobson of the UUP says the drugs are available in many shops "even takeaways in towns across Northern Ireland".

She says this has not been the first Assembly debate on this matter and she suspects it will not be the last.

Kieran McCarthy of Alliance says he was "shocked and saddened" by the recent death of 17-year-old Adam Owens from Newtownards in his Strangford constituency.

'Grief and pain'

Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin says "Ireland has the highest use of so-called legal highs in Europe".

"It has brought untold grief and pain to many families," she says, calling for a general ban on the sale of psychoactive substances.

'Head shops'

Fearghal McKinney

Mr McKinney says that when new legislation was introduced in the Republic, "102 'head shops' were closed down almost overnight".

"We need to make a racket at Westminster," the South Belfast MLA says.

Psychoactive substances

Packets of "legal highs"

The debate on '"legal highs" resumes.

The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney introduces his party's amendment, which calls for greater co-operation with the authorities in the Republic of Ireland.

He describes the drugs as "lethal highs".

Metal fumes

Simon Hamilton

The Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, says the source of the disease is believed to be metal fumes. He adds that the Public Health Agency (PHA) expects to complete its work of providing vaccinations by 9pm today and that "no further clinics will be needed".

Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein asks for assurances that the PHA and the Health and Safety Executive will work to ensure that "all future risks are dealt with in a time-appropriate manner".

Pneumococcal disease

Phil Flanagan

Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan asks the Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, an urgent oral question about a bacterial infection capable of causing potentially deadly illnesses that has broken out at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

The trade union, Unite, said more than 450 workers were being screened for the pneumococcal disease.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said it had been detected in a number of employees.

It can cause infections, including pneumonia and meningitis.

It is understood four employees have infected.

Fatal foetal abnormality

Anna Lo

Anna Lo of Alliance asks the justice minister to give his assessment of "recent comments by the first minister that termination for fatal foetal abnormality can be dealt with by guidelines rather than by the proposed changes in law".

Mr Ford says "guidelines can only define the law at the present time. They cannot change the law".

He confirms that he will bring a paper to the Executive outlining his proposed changes to the criminal law.

The magistrate's pony

Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann expresses concern about the proposed closure of Ballymena courthouse, and his position is shared by a number of other members.

David Ford says he wants the best possible facilities in courthouses.

"We're not in the days when the resident magistrate rode around on his pony to assorted courtrooms in the back rooms of hotels," he adds.

Laundered fuel

William Irwin

In reply to a question from the DUP's William Irwin, the justice minister says that in the last two years the number of filling stations involved in prosecutions for the sale of laundered fuel was 33 in 2013-14 and 25 in 2014-15.

He says that "the new marker is now in place and that is significantly better" in helping the authorities to trace laundered fuel.

Justice Questions

David Ford

Justice minister David Ford is answering questions from MLAs

'Transformation and reform'

Sammy Douglas

The DUP's Sammy Douglas asks the minister to outline the "key challenges" he faces.

"I thought I had a hard job until I started this one," Mr Hamilton replies.

He says his priority is "the need for transformation and reform" of the health and social care system.

'Not an equality issue'

Caitriona Ruane

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane asks the minister whether he will be moving to lift "the current ban on blood donations for gay men".

Simon Hamilton refers to a current court case and says the says the decision currently lies with Westminster.

He says that if he does have to make a decision it will be based on "science and the medical evidence"

The minister says "this is not an equality issue" but a matter of patient safety.

'Strategic plan'

Fearghal McKinney

The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney asks whether Transforming Your Care remains the Health Department's "core strategic plan".

"The principles of Transforming Your Care remain the priorities for this department," Mr Hamilton replies.

"It is moving forward, it is perhaps moving forward more slowly than we would have liked because of resources," he adds.

Unfunded pressures

Sandra Overend

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend asks the health minister for the most recent estimated funding pressure on his department.

Mr Hamilton says that while he was finance minister he was well aware of the financial pressures the Department of Health is facing.

He says there are £30m to £40m of unfunded pressures across the system.

Private ambulances

Claire Sugden

Independent MLA Claire Sugden asks whether there are plans to increase the number of Ambulance Service personnel given the current reliance on private ambulance services.

Simon Hamilton says there are currently 94 vacancies within the ambulance services.

He says he hopes that the filling of those posts "could help to alleviate some of those pressures".

Question Time

Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Justice Minister David Ford are answering questions from MLAs.

This is Mr Hamilton's first Question Time since his recent transfer from the post of Finance Minister.

'Legal highs'

Alex Easton

The DUP's Alex Easton introduces his party's motion on psychoactive substances, or "legal highs".

These often mimic the effect of Class A drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy, he says, but as the composition has been chemically altered, users can never be sure what they are actually taking.

Mr Easton notes that producers often label substances as "plant food" and include warnings such as "not for human consumption", allowing them to circumvent laws governing medical drugs.

The motion passes

Roy Beggs

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs concludes the debate.

He pays tribute to the voluntary and community organisations in his East Antrim constituency, many of which are suffering cuts.

Mr Beggs says that when a voluntary group closes, the work has to be taken up by statutory bodies "who are already overstretched".

The motion passes on an oral vote.

'Strong and vibrant'

Mervyn Storey

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey says he wants to see "a strong, vibrant and enterprising, and sustainable" sector.

Referring to organisations closing because of the cuts he asks: "Who picks up the services that were delivered by those organisations?"

He says he will ensure that "the Executive gives due diligence and attention" to the matter.

'Self-implemented' cuts

Steven Agnew

Steven Agnew of the Green Party says there is a danger that the debate is turning into: "Good things are good, bad things are bad".

He says there should be an acknowledgement of "the reality of the self-implemented cuts that are being made by the Northern Ireland government".

Mr Agnew says there will be further cuts if corporation tax is devolved.


Alban Maginness

The SDLP North Belfast MLA, Alban Maginness, says organisations are struggling without funding. He "says there is a very real human cost".

'Flimsy grounds'

Sydney Anderson of the DUP says numerous groups feel that applications to the European Social Fund (ESF) have been rejected "on very flimsy grounds".

He puts this down to "poor handling of applications by the Department for Employment and Learning".

Sydney Anderson

Mr Anderson says ESF is "a vital and valuable funding stream".

'Not far enough'

Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein is supportive of the motion but says it "doesn't go far enough" as it does not "address the core problem".

He says this is "cuts, cuts, cuts from London".

Mr Maskey calls for a change to the system of funding the sector away from "this constant chasing after a cocktail of funding".

Alex Maskey

'Ideological position'

The DUP's Sammy Wilson addresses the parties that have blamed the Westminster government for the cuts.

Sammy Wilson

He says the £900,000 cut to arts represents half a day of the funding lost to Northern Ireland because of the "ideological position" of the SDLP and Sinn Fein on welfare cuts.

Mr Wilson says the two parties have "buried their heads in the economic sands".

'100% cuts'

Anna Lo

Anna Lo of Alliance also says she worked for many years in the sector.

She says that "in any ways they are more efficient and effective" at delivering services than public bodies.

Mrs Lo says there as "not been a very strategic approach" by the Executive, and she criticises the 100% cuts made to some environmental organisations.

'Less support'

Sean Rogers

Sean Rogers of the SDLP says the cuts are an example of why his party has opposed the Executive's budget.

"Less funding means less staff, means less support," he says.

'Cabinet of millionaires'

Bronwyn McGahan

Bronwyn McGahan of Sinn Fein says "David Cameron's cabinet of millionaires" is wedded to austerity.

She says this will have "drastic consequences".

Ms McGahan calls on all parties in the Executive to unite against austerity.


Sammy Douglas says many of the community groups survived right through the worst of the Troubles.

"Many of them held their groups together at times when Northern Ireland was falling apart," he says.


The DUP's Sammy Douglas

The DUP's Sammy Douglas says he has been involved in community and voluntary action in east Belfast for 25 years.

He says that "ultimately some of these groups will collapse".

The sector is "an integral part of the economy," Mr Douglas says.


Performing arts
Performing arts is one of the sectors affected

In April, Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) chief executive

Seamus McAleavey warned that hundreds of job losses were likely as a result of cuts in the sector.

Mr McAleavey said the scale of the job losses was unprecedented and he was seeking an emergency meeting with Northern Ireland's first minister and deputy first minister to address the issue.

Groups in the environment, the arts and training are affected by the cuts.

'Low-hanging fruit'

Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann introduces his party's motion on funding cuts to the community and voluntary sector.

He quotes Ghandi saying that the true measure of a society is shown in "how it treats its most vulnerable".

The North Antrim MLA says organisations in the community and voluntary sector fear they are seen as the "low-hanging financial fruit".

Finance committee chairman supports motion

Finance committee chairman Daithi McKay says he supports the motion.

The motion passes on an oral vote.

Patient registration

Arlene Foster

The Finance Minister Arlene Foster is bringing a motion on the Statistics and Registration Service Act concerning the disclosure of patient registration information.

'Schoolyard behaviour'

Mitchel McLaughlin says he is focusing on members showing respect instead of debates turning into "schoolyard behaviour".